What Hams Do
Whether you would like to chat with your friends on the way
to work or school, check into a net to discuss topics of a
mutual interest, or volunteer for emergency services, amateur
radio is first and foremost about communication. With hams that
means two way communication by radio. Radios can be hand-held
transceivers similar to a walkie talkie, a mobile unit for use
in a car or other vehicle, or a base station with an outdoor
antenna used for local or distance communication. Regardless of
the type of equipment radio amateurs have a wide range of
activities they can pursue. Some of these are:
- Talking with friends within the local community
using a hand-held transceiver (HT) on VHF (2 meters) or UHF
(70 cm.). You can extend your HT range up to 50 miles or
more by transmitting through a local repeater.
- DXing. DX means distance communication and with the
right equipment worldwide communication on the HF bands (10
through 160 meters) is a regular possibility. See the
section Amateur Radio Bands
for a more complete description of the band plans.
with emergency and disaster communication.
Organizations in the amateur community such as the Amateur
Radio Emergency Service (ARES) and the National Traffic
System (NTS) prepare amateurs with the training needed to
assist in emergency situations.
- Technical experimenting. Hams come from all walks
of life ranging from technicians to engineers, teachers to
scientists, and students to retirees. For many of them
the attraction to the hobby is to build their own equipment
whether it is just a simple antenna, something as complex as
a transmitter, or an interface between their radio and a
- Contesting. Contesting is often called the
"sport" of ham radio. Almost every weekend there
is some form of amateur radio contest. Hams get on the air
and compete to see who can make the most contacts in a
limited period of time.
- Talk to an astronaut. Yes, it is really possible. Space
stations do have ham radio equipment and licensed ham
astronauts take the time to make contacts with amateurs on
earth. Hams also have satellites where you can bounce a
signal to communicate with other hams on earth.
- Use digital communication. Connect a computer to
your radio and install some software and you can be
communicating digitally over the air. Some of these digital
modes can be more effective in marginal transmission
conditions and some even sport error free transmission.
- Internet communication. Using some of the latest
technologies hams can supplement a modest station with
Internet connections. Using features such as URL or IRLP on
a local repeater a ham in Toronto can talk to one in
Vancouver or even Australia using a simple hand-held
To get involved with any of these activities requires an
amateur radio license and maybe a little help from a neighborly
ham. The section How to
Become a Radio Amateur explains what you need to get
© 2001 - 2007 Don Cassel VE3XD
Table of Contents
What is Amateur Radio?
What Hams Do
How to Become a Radio Amateur
Amateur Radio Bands
IRLP in Depth
Guide to Choosing Your First Radio
Glossary of Terms
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